Race Weekend Central

Number Crunching Fantasy Forecast: Is Kurt Busch Worth Picking Up For Phoenix?

It’s that time of the week again, just after qualifying and my highlighter has come out to look at NASCAR Fantasy Live! picks. I would like to take a minute to tell you a little about how I play and the theory behind my selections before we talk about this week’s interesting news. If you have been following me for a while, you will know that I advise you to be conservatively smart. By conservatively smart, I mean we are trying to hit a double every week. If you attempt to hit a home run with your picks, in the long run you will inevitably strike out, meaning the guys hitting doubles every time will pass you up. When you use this strategy, you’ll also find you end up hitting home runs more often than you would think. Being conservatively smart, we don’t need to win every week to win the entire season, or the entire game. It’s the long run that counts, not just one big race.

This week’s major news in the fantasy world is pretty much the same as the rest of the NASCAR: Kurt Busch is back in the No. 41 car. What does that mean for us? Well, we basically had a hired assassin in Regan Smith in a great car locked in at either $5 or $7.50. The Smith pick was a no brainer week to week and was one less driver for us to worry about. Leaving lots of cash on the table, this phenomenon rocked our fantasy world as the last couple of weeks, we had Smith and Kyle Busch sub David Ragan “locked in.” Now, we are back to the drawing board. Can we keep a “Stars and Scrubs” lineup, which is three drivers about $26 and then two at or below $10, or can we go “middle of the road,” which is four drivers around $23 and one around $7?

Here at Phoenix, we want to maximize our laps led as well as our fastest lap points. We have a combined total of 312 points up for grabs in those two categories. That being said, because Kevin Harvick was so fast this week and in the past, we are just going to assume he will score most of those points. That prediction gives us a little more freedom and allows us to be a little more daring this week.

No. 4 Kevin Harvick $28.00

If you are using my picks from last week, you have a quarter in the bank on Happy. He’s got Hendrick Motorsports power under the hood and the right foot knows how to use it. Watching his in car, Harvick just gets through the center of the corner so well and plants the power earlier than everyone else. Betting against him here would be a bad idea; he’s led the most laps here the last three races in a row and totally dominated both races last year.

No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. $27.75

Earnhardt and crew chief Greg Ives are on the same page going after wins. He has fast cars this year and looked good in the first practice at Phoenix, a track where Earnhardt has won multiple times in the past. I liked Ives’s call for two tires last week and agree that if you end up second, third or fourth, it doesn’t matter if you put yourself in a situation with a real shot to win the race. That being said, risk takers can burn us in fantasy NASCAR; those lost positions turn into valuable missed opportunities to score points. However, Earnhardt starts 16th and should move up through the field, which is perfect for us. He is one of the few cars I think might have something for Harvick this week.

No. 48 Jimmie Johnson $27.00

Johnson had some bad luck last week but had a fast car. I like the way the No. 48 bunch looks so far this year and I like the speed of the all the cars coming out of the 48/88 shop. I was scanning the team’s radio last race after the tire failures and there wasn’t that edge of argument that seemed to happen quite often last year. I think, then despite those early ups and downs the Johnson/Chad Knaus combo might be back on track. Jimmie starts 20th this week and should score some great place-differential points for us. Phoenix is by no means Jimmie’s best track, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the lead.

No. 18 David Ragan $9.00

Ragan starts 13th, which is about ten positions on the grid above where I would like to see him. However, Mr. Busch’s sub has a fast car and should be able to finish in the high-teens. In his post-qualifying interview, Ragan seemed happy with his car and most of the Joe Gibbs Racing guys ran well. Let’s hope this young man keeps it in one piece and the No. 18 Toyota should be a solid pick for us.

No. 34 Brett Moffitt $7.00

Moffitt starts 38th, driving the Front Row Motorsports Ford for Ragan. That puts him squarely on our team this week. Moffitt ran well a couple of weeks ago in Michael Waltrip Racing equipment, scoring a top-10 finish at Atlanta, and he’s now secured this mid-pack ride to drive for Bob Jenkins. Starting that far back, we just hope he stays out of trouble, avoids some wrecks and moves up into the low 30s or high 20s. That’s quality points at a track where the underdogs typically struggle to get up front.

Race Winner: Kevin Harvick

As we discussed earlier, betting against Harvick here would be a bad move. His track record speaks for itself.

Manufacturer: Chevrolet

Did I mention Harvick once or twice so far?

Of course, I’m not the only expert; everyone has different prices on their drivers and different ideas on how to structure a team. So if you have any questions about your lineup, feel free to leave a comment in the comments section and I will be checking and responding to everyone. Thanks for reading!

About the author

Nathan became a fantasy fanatic after following NASCAR for 30 years. Nothing makes him happier than hearing that he helped people win their fantasy league. He grew up on the dirt tracks of western Pennsylvania, watching the likes of Lou, Dale, and Dave Blaney. Now a South Carolina transplant, you can find him in the infield of Darlington race weekends or crunching the numbers for your fantasy teams on Saturday.

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